2013 in Review

Simply put, it was a great year. I didn’t corner myself with a list of photography-related resolutions. I just wanted to learn more about the craft, and to take better pictures. The above photo is a great place to start. My friend Garrett Ross was kind enough to loan me his macro lens early last year. This watch was a wedding gift that my wife slipped into my overnight bag. Sneaky devil. I was so impressed by the results I purchased a copy of the lens that night.

My first landscape experience, and by experience I mean the planning, early wakeup, driving, parking, running, watching the sun come up, panicking, setting up the kit, snap, snap, snap, and hoping a frame came out. I’ve since learned to either scout a spot the day before, or arrive 30 minutes before the sunrise. You never know where you can park, where the vantage points are, how hard it is to get setup with freezing coastal wind blowing in your face. You get the idea.

This photo taught me to stay open minded when on-site. I researched the area, found a number of great shots to replicate (because you have to start somewhere), and packed my gear. I even showed up early. I was able to get the shots I wanted with plenty of time to spare and felt like I’d done some good work. On the way back to my truck I set the tripod down to pack my bag, and decided to snap this shot right there.

Another first, this one with a 10-stop ND filter. I have to be honest, the exposure calculations and the care that goes into a long-exposure shot can be irritating. However, the results are pleasing. I had some luck with the clouds; the streaking made some great leading lines, and the halo effect frames these beach houses perfectly.

My daughter takes horseback riding lessons, which offers an opportunity for action shots but the stables contain some great still life. I really enjoy “the kit” shots, regardless of the area of interest. This shot gave me an appreciation for using contrasting colors to create separation between your subject and the setting.

This is one of my most heavily processed photos. I’m usually hesitant when it comes to pushing my files beyond that safe noise-free territory. It took about 4 stops of added exposure to bring the clouds in, and the reverse to bring out the details in the moon. While this definitely chewed up the file, it represents the scene as I saw it that night.

My wife and I spent a week on the Gulf Coast last year, driving through a few scenic towns. One evening, while the sun was setting, we stopped off at a random beach access. As we approached the beach a group of girls ran up and asked if I wanted to take a picture of the starfish they caught. I was expecting some small deceased shells when they ran back and put these two down in front of us.

This is when photography took the top spot in my list of creative pursuits. To compare: I enjoy surfing, and have spent many summers on the east coast with friends and family. In all that time I’ve never woken up to surf at dawn, which A) provides the best conditions and B) very few other surfers in the water. During our recent beach trip I woke up before sunrise three times to drive around and capture seascapes. Not once did I bring my board, or remind myself to do so the following morning. I was far more interested in what clouds tomorrow might bring.

I found this “model” while cleaning out a standing lamp in my living room and knew I had a great studio subject. My wife and children had a good laugh at the sight of dad, spray bottle in one hand, dead hornet stuck on a toothpick in the other, getting the water drops just right. This was my first attempt at controlling the light; using a desk lamp (overhead) and a speedlight with a colored gel (behind the subject, camera-right) to balance the temperature between the two.

I think this photo wraps things up nicely, as it marks an important evolution. It was the first shot of the day, I saw the shot I wanted to take, and managed to get the result I envisioned. Up to this point I’d describe my shooting style as “hunting” for a shot; I see something interesting and I shoot until I think I have a keeper. In this case I tried to see it first, and capture it after. Here’s hoping that 2014 brings more opportunities like this.